June 24, 2020 0 By admin

Frank B. Wilderson III is an award-winning writer, activist, and critical theorist who spent five and a half years in South Africa, where he was one of two Americans. Frank B. Wilderson, III is an Associate Professor in the Drama Doctoral Program and the African American Studies Program at UC Irvine. He has taught literature. FRANK B. WILDERSON, III is a longtime activist and organizer against racism and the prison-industrial complex. He spent five and one-half years in South Africa.

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There is nothing like a pure revolutionary anymore in America, but Frank Wilderson is as close as you are going to get.

At 54, Wilderson is an award-winning author, founder of the Afro-pessimism movement and an associate professor of drama and African-American studies at the University of California, Irvine.

Last year he received tenure, after nearly 20 years of teaching. He has produced one short film and written two books—one a memoir and one a film studies monograph that emerged from his Ph.

He is a public intellectual, a maven of ideas who publishes and lectures constantly. He is not a parlor Bolshevik. Then he went to the Berkeley campus and joined in the riots. At Dartmouth he led a protest against the treatment of immigrant workers on campus. While getting his Ph. The six were freed, and Wilderson was arrested wilrerson charged with a couple of felony counts.

In the s Wilderson lived in South Africa. He taught in underfunded community colleges. He has never lived his life quietly, simply wilderon into the status quo. He was born in New Orleans and, wikderson moving to California, was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, then Minneapolis, Minnesota, the eldest of three children of a couple from Louisiana.

In the Wildersons were the first family of color to move into Kenwood, a formerly all-white, affluent neighborhood in western Minneapolis, and young Frank was one of two black children in his public elementary school. Able to quote long passages wileerson memory from 20th-century philosopher and anticolonialist Frantz Fanon, Wilderson was not the typical freshman when he arrived at his Fayerweather dorm room in September For his freshman trip he signed up for the hardest silderson possible, incurring blisters wilddrson his feet that lasted for weeks.

For two seasons he played outside linebacker on the football team. Perhaps nowhere was this more obvious to him than in Hanover. It was an intense time to be a politically active African American at Dartmouth, which had only a few years earlier begun matriculating significant numbers of black students.

As a sophomore he became president of the Black Student Union. At the same time he backed out of the process of joining Alpha Phi Alpha, the historically black fraternity that started a Dartmouth chapter in While on academic probation for a bad grade in physics he organized a frsnk in support of immigrant construction workers on campus who were being forced to eat at off hours and in a side room at Thayer.


Frank B. Wilderson III

Hanover police arrested him for trespassing, and in February Dartmouth indefinitely suspended him. For two years Wilderson hitchhiked around the country, working as a day laborer, garbageman eilderson freelance journalist.

In March he returned to Dartmouth. He majored in government, minored in European philosophy and worked on his writing with Bill Cook, the English professor and poet. He was smart and very inspiring but approachable. A lot of people had little crushes on Frank.

Whither the Slave in Civil Society? For seven years he was a stockbroker. In archetypal terms, this was his period of exile and excess—exile from his true calling and the excess that comes with flying on planes that have real china.

He was the first black stockbroker in Minneapolis. He was probably the only Marxist one. He was quietly writing a novel about two Dartmouth men who travel to Africa Wilderson has written three unpublished novels, now stored in boxes in his garageteaching creative writing at night and leading an ad-hoc political discussion group at the University of Minnesota.

He had a magnetic personality. Just before starting he went to South Africa farnk research his next novel. Within 24 hours he got into a race-related brawl at his bed-and-breakfast and met a law school student, Khanya, to whom he would become engaged within months and then marry. For two years they endured a transatlantic romance wjlderson he graduated from Columbia and moved to Johannesburg.

In South Africa Wilderson was in heaven: He lived a Spartan existence, especially compared to other American expatriates. He and Khanya and her baby girl from an earlier relationship lived in vrank occupied primarily by working-class blacks.

He waited tables in between teaching gigs. Ironically, Wilderson showed up for his interview at the community college wearing a coat and tie, which almost disqualified him. Politically, it was exhilarating. Wilderson was elected to the Transvaal executive committee of the Congress of South African Writers and numerous committees at his universities, even leading a strike. In perhaps the most moving scene of his memoir, Wilderson describes how he investigated massacres as a field worker for an ANC peace commission, risking his life in wildersonn squatter camps.

At the same time he moonlighted as an urban guerrilla. He trained with an AK The ANC was unsure whether it was a truly wildersno movement or willing to frwnk within the confines of Western, liberal capitalism. No one was who he seemed to be. Even Kilgore had a secret: He was on the run from U. Kilgore was arrested and extradited in and served five years in jail. He had guns pulled on him. His relationship with his wife and stepdaughter frayed, and he and Khanya separated and eventually divorced.

The police arrested and tortured a couple of frqnk comrades.

Wilderson demobilized in For the next decade he worked on his Ph. As in South Africa, he was fired from some jobs and made unwelcome at others because he was willing and eager to confront racism head-on.


He condemned colleagues, friends, even the adult daughter of a girlfriend; he drove his dissertation advisor to tear. He was also writing a memoir. The scenes shifted from Minneapolis to Johannesburg to Berkeley, California, all in one chapter. His searing poetry serves as an epigraph for each chapter. It is a political book not without emotion: He almost sold it to Palgrave, which gave a verbal offer, but the deal fell through at fgank last minute after a battle between editors and publishers.

He took it widlerson Beacon Press. There he got an advance, and editors cut it down towords and put it in the spring catalog. Then Beacon rescinded the contract, ostensibly over the length of the book. Wilderson then, for the second time in his literary career, fired his literary agent.

The Italicized Life of Frank Wilderson ’78

Making one last try he posted the manuscript to 50 publishers. Jocelyn Burrell at South End Press received it. I read it on the train. I was absolutely fascinated and stunned. It was very devastating, very intriguing, very captivating. I was immensely excited about the kinds of questions he was raising, the risk-taking. It was damning and revelatory. There was something about naming and being willing to name it.

Incognegro, a Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

It was hot, hot to the touch. It is a book that indelibly changed me as a reader. As an editor, I hope to have one this good every 10 years. It appeared in August as a page paperback in a 6,copy print run.

For such a small book from a small press, the reaction was incredible. Wilderson was asked to give readings in more than wi,derson dozen cities around the country. The book reviews were often ecstatic. Others found it deeply troubling, and berated Wilderson at readings.

The novelist Ishmael Reed predicted that Wilderson will become a major American writer. It is on a lot of reading lists. It is a stunning book. A movement stemming partially from the works of cultural theorists such as Franz Fanon, Afro-pessimism has become a galvanic part of African-American critical theory with Wilderson as its standard-bearer. Blacks are nonhuman, without kinship, subject to gratuitous terror and violence and exploitation. Black family, Wilderson writes, is an oxymoron.

Slavery did not fran in ; the prison has replaced the plantation. Why was the worker shot?

Why was the black shot? Cinema and the Structure of U. The critique is incredibly dense, strewn with words only academics use with straight faces—aporia, imbricate, vestimentary, acephalic, idiopathic, interpellate—and sentences that seem willfully unreadable. But it is nonetheless compelling and disturbing. For example, Wilderson notes that Denzel Washington has played a police officer seven wildersno.